A USS Gettysburg officer opted for a local promotion ceremony.
“I’m proud of my uncle,” said 8-year-old Eliese Bortz of Reading, Pa., after fastening lieutenant’s epaulets on Jeffrey Bortz’s pristine Navy dress uniform.
Bortz chose the Pennsylvania Monument on the Gettysburg battlefield as the site for his promotion ceremony Saturday morning.
The sailor, who has been the USS Gettysburg’s navigation officer, explained his choice saying, “It means a lot to be here in my home state on this battlefield that had a huge impact on our nation.”
The guided missile cruiser’s commanding officer, Cpt. Corey Keniston, said Bortz’s responsibilities will greatly expand with his new role. Bortz will serve as a departmental chief aboard the ship, with about 80 of the vessel’s 300 crew members under his command.
With current and former military members standing at attention, Keniston led Bortz in a reaffirmation of his commitment to defend the constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic.
An American soldiers’ oath, said Keniston, “is unique in that it is not an oath to a person or an ideology but to a document that states how we order our way of life.”
With soldiers such as Bortz serving in our military, Keniston assured those present, “we can sleep soundly at night.” The ship’s commander went on to say that the young sailor, who is a graduate of York College, “has tremendous potential to go as far as he wants to go.”
Bortz expressed appreciation for his mentoring by Keniston and the USS Gettysburg’s highest enlisted officer, Command Master Chief Jonell Rape. He quipped that his mentors have prepared him “to navigate my way forward, pun intended!”
The new lieutenant also paid tribute to his family members in attendance, saying, “They made me the person I am.”
Explaining his duties recently have involved working with young naval ROTC recruits, Bortz said he tells the officer candidates, “I do this job for my family.”
In addition to Bortz’s relatives, several of Gettysburg’s community leaders who are supportive of a strong relationship with the vessel’s crew were on hand for the promotion ceremony.
“It’s pretty special they decided to come to Gettysburg for this event,” said Gettysburg’s borough council president, Susan Naugle.
“As retired military, I take a special interest in an officer’s promotion,” said Mayor Ted Streeter. Streeter and others expressed a commitment to further strengthen the community-ship relationship in the future.
Originally launched 30 years ago, and commissioned in 1991 by Susan Eisenhower, the 600-foot vessel, valued at about $1 billion, currently is in dry dock at Norfolk, Va., for a “modernization” upgrade.
Although the ship, whose motto is “deeds, not words,” will not return to the high seas until 2021, it remains a beehive of activity for crew training while in port. And Lt. Jeffrey Bortz will play a key role in training fellow sailors.
After the ceremony, Bortz’s eyes filled with tears as he spoke of a recent incident in a grocery store parking lot that he said, “gave me a tingle.”
“A little girl leaned out of an SUV and shouted, ‘thank you for your service to our country,’” Bortz said. While appreciated, he indicated, such honoring of those in uniform is not necessary since they are just doing the duty for which they signed up.